Rohingya Crisis in Myanmar Draws Top U.S. State Department Officials

Muslim Rohingya militants, responding to the religious persecution of their people in Myanmar (the former Burma) August 25, attacked police in that country’s strife-torn northern state of Rakhine. This touched off a series of harsh reprisals my Myanmar security forces against the Rohingya population, creating a mass exodus of the Muslim sect into neighboring Bangladesh.

rohingya crisis

Today, between 600,000 and 800,000 Rohingya refugees are living in makeshift camps in Bangladesh, tens of thousands of them crammed into temporary homes in the Cox’s Bazar district in southeastern Bangladesh.

In an unprecedented visit, U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson announced he will travel to Naypyidaw, Myanmar, on November 15 to address both the Rohingya crisis and continued American support for the country’s democratic transition. Tillerson and State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert will join the American delegation led by Simon Henshaw, Acting Assistant Secretary of State for the Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration.

Mayanmar’s leader, Nobel Laureate Aung San Su Kyi, has faced widespread international criticism for her slow response to the crisis. On November 2, Kyi made her first visit to the troubled Rakhine district since the troubles began last August.

She faces now the task of refugee repatriation, a sore point between the Myanmar and Bangladesh governments. Media reports claim that Kyi has agreed to take back only 150 to 300 Rohingya refugees per day.

Both governments are in talks to solve the crisis, which has increased tension between them.

“It is definitely ethnic cleansing,” Ziauddin told VoA News. “The program of ethnic cleansing which started on the 25th of August has been of phenomenal proportions…tantamount to actually genocide. It is possibly one of the darkest chapters in human history.”

Ziauddin thanked the international community and especially the United States for its humanitarian assistance. The US government has sent nearly $104 million this year to help the displaced refugees, who have suffered “ethnic cleansing” in the words of Bangladeshi Ambassador to the United States Mohammad Ziauddin. He further explained that his government is registering the Rohingya refugees to facilitate their repatriation. Regarding the Rohingya militant attack last August which set off this human catastrophe, Ziauddin voiced his country’s concerns, that “along with the refugees, some of these militants come to Bangladesh [and] then we have our own problems of terrorism and extremism… So we want this Rohingya problem to be solved as soon as possible, the sooner the better.”

Myanmar refugees Rohingya Bangladesh